Although elephants belong in the wild, specific reasons make it difficult for that to happen. The ones rescued from zoos, circuses or temples are often put in sanctuaries or rehabilitation centres instead, for it may be dangerous to return them to the wild. Such sanctuaries are also open to tourists as it helps them raise money to care for the elephants.
Most of them brand themselves as having ethical practices in place, but that may not always be the case–they continue to offer elephant rides and other kinds of activities which require elephants to be trained. Responsible Travel, an activist travel company championing sustainability, has compiled a list of elephant sanctuaries that are genuinely ethical if you wish to visit your giant friends
Elephant Valley Project, Mondulkiri, Cambodia
This elephant sanctuary was founded in 2007 to provide a home for injured animals and protect Cambodia’s remaining population of wild elephants. They aim to create a natural habitat focused on the “five freedoms of animal welfare”–freedom from hunger and thirst, pain, discomfort, injury or disease, fear and distress. They do not promote feeding, bathing, swimming or riding elephants.
Timings: 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM
Book a visit: https://elephantvalleyproject.org/visit-the-valley/#:~:text=Price%20%3D%20%2430%20(Inc%20VAT),(3%2D4km%20of%20hiking)
Elephant Conservation And Care Center, Mathura
Established in 2010, the centre is home to over 30 rescued elephants. The elephants here have been rescued from temples, circuses and other private confinements. It is also India’s first chain-free camp, where visitors can tour under supervision. You will find stretches of natural vegetation across open fields dotted with water pools for the elephants to play and swim.
Timings: 10 AM to 5 PM
Book a visit: Call +91 9690009792
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand
Spread over 12 hectares, the sanctuary has many ponds, hillsides and open fields where fourteen elephants reside. The sanctuary practices a “saddle off” model, restricting activities like riding, hosting shows, trunk hugging, etc. However, visitors are allowed to roam along with the elephants and feed them fruits under the supervision of the caretakers.
Timings: 9:30 AM to 1 PM and 1:30 PM to 5 PM
Book a visit: https://www.green-elephantsanctuarypark.com/booking/
MandaLao Sanctuary, Laos
This sanctuary is home to only a few elephants, aged between 4 to 60 years, rescued from the logging industry. They have strict rules and practices, such as no rides and no feeding or bathing. However, guests can walk through the forest along with the elephants and watch them be fed or bathed by the caretakers. There are also many guided tours and programs available, where you can learn new things like making special treats for the animals or trekking in their company.
Timings: 8:30 AM to 8 PM
Book a visit: https://mandalaotours.com/tours/
Tiger Tops Elephant Camp, Nepal
Established in 1964 by Toddy Lee Wynne and Herb Klein, it started as a hunting lodge. The lodge was later sold to Jim Edwards, a British adventurer, who transformed it into a wildlife viewing operation. However, it became an ethical sanctuary in 2016 after banning elephant safaris. Since then, the camp has been devoted to creating an ecosystem that promotes educational interaction between humans and elephants while preserving their natural habitat. There are two outposts in Chitwan’s Tharu Lodge and the Karnali Lodge in Bardiya National Park.
Book a visit: https://tigertops.com/enquire-now